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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals sustaining Defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err when it found the evidence was sufficient to uphold the conviction. A jury found Defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Defendant filed a motion to set aside the jury’s verdict based on insufficient evidence to prove the elements of the offense of voluntary manslaughter. The trial court denied the motion, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err in affirming Appellant’s conviction of voluntary manslaughter because the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. View "Smith v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court, reinstated the determination of the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), and entered final judgment for the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, holding that the circuit court erred when it held that Va. Code 15.2-2307(D) creates a vested right to an originally illegal use of a building or structure after the owner has paid taxes to the locality for that building or structure for fifteen years or more. Defendants owned real property located in McLean, Virginia. The Fairfax County Zoning Administrator issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Defendants regarding the property because a detached garage and garden house locate on the property had been converted to dwelling, resulting in three complete and separate dwellings on the property. Defendants appealed the NOV to the BZA, arguing that the garage and garden house were grandfathered. The BZA concluded that Defendants were in violation of the relevant ordinance. The circuit court reversed, holding that the nonconforming structures were protected under section 15.2-2307(D)(iii). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in holding that 15.2-2307(D) protected Defendants’ illegal use of their garden house and garage. View "Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County v. Cohn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming Defendant’s convictions on three counts of violating Va. Code 18.2-181 without reviewing the merits of his assignment of error and reinstated the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court’s determination of Defendant’s guilt was not plainly wrong or without support in the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions on three counts of larceny by worthless check without reaching the merits of his assignment of error challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s assignment of error was not preserved for appeal in the circuit court under the requirements of Rule 5A.18. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the judgment of the circuit court, holding (1) this Court assumes, without deciding, the the circuit court’s ruling on the motion to vacate Defendant’s convictions was properly before the Court of Appeals; and (2) the evidence was sufficient as a matter of law to support Defendant’s convictions. View "McGinnis v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Upon consideration of Darnell Phillips’ petition for a writ of actual innocence, Respondent’s motion to dismiss, and Phillips’ motion for a nonsuit, the Supreme Court decided that the writ of actual innocence will not issue, the motion for nonsuit will be denied, and the petition will be dismissed. Phillips challenged his convictions for abduction with intent to defile, rape, forcible sodomy, and malicious wounding. After testing conducted by a private laboratory and resulting report submitted by a forensic scientist, Phillips filed his current petition for a writ of actual innocence. Thereafter, the Supreme Court decided In re Brown, 295 Va. 202, 225 (Va. 2018). Because the holding was not favorable to Phillips, he moved to nonsuit his petition. The Supreme Court denied the motion for nonsuit and dismissed the petition for writ of actual innocence, holding (1) Phillips’ petition was not a civil action to which the nonsuit statute applies; and (2) the petition must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. View "In re Phillips" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Plaintiff’s application for a name change under Va. Code 8.01-217, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by finding that good cause did not exist for consideration of the application and by employing an inappropriate procedure to make that determination. Brian Allen Leonard (Plaintiff), an inmate who was transitioning from a male to female identity, filed an application to change her name to Bree Anna Leonard. In denying the application, the circuit concluded that good cause did not exist for consideration of the application. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the application for good cause and by deviating from the statutory process for assessing a name-change application. View "Leonard v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court dismissed, without prejudice, Appellant’s appeal of the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s motion for reconsideration of its prior order denying his second motion to dismiss his capital indictments, holding that the Court was without jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Appellant was indicted for two counts of capital murder. Eleven years after the circuit court determined that Appellant was incompetent to stand trial, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the capital indictments. The court denied the motion, finding that Appellant remained incompetent to stand trial, that his continued treatment was medically appropriate, and that he presented a danger to himself and others. Appellant then filed a second motion to dismiss, arguing that Va. Code 19.2-169.3(F), which required the circuit court to do periodic evaluations of Appellant, violated his rights to due process, equal protection and a speedy trial. The trial court denied the motion and Appellant’s subsequent motion to reconsider. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that this appeal was from a purported judgment in a criminal case, and therefore, an appeal lay first with the court of appeals. View "Martinez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that Defendant’s dog was a “dangerous dog” within the meaning of Va. Code 3.2-6540(A), finding that Defendant was the custodian or harborer of the dog, and ordering Defendant to pay restitution for the injuries to another dog, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendant’s dog was a dangerous dog and that she was liable for restitution as the dog’s custodian; (2) the determination that Defendant was the custodian or harborer of the dog was not plainly wrong; and (3) based on the evidence, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in ordering restitution in the amount of $3,896.15. View "Frouz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant’s conviction for shooting at an occupied vehicle under Va. Code 18.2-154, holding that the plain language of the statute did not require the prosecution to prove that the shooter was located outside of the vehicle when he fired shots at an occupied vehicle. While inside a vehicle, Defendant shot one of the vehicle’s occupants. Among other things, Defendant was convicted of maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle. On appeal, Defendant argued that he could not violate section 18.2-154 unless he was aiming in the direction of the car while standing outside of said car. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the plain language of the statute contains no requirement that the shooter who maliciously shoots at an occupied vehicle must be positioned outside of the vehicle. View "Jones v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment denying a motion for nonsuit, prospectively denying an inmate in forma pauperis status pursuant to Va. Code 8.01-692, and imposing a pre-service review with possible summary dismissal on the inmate’s future filings, holding one portion of the judgment was proper but the remainder must be vacated and remanded. Specifically, the Court held (1) because Appellant had at least three cases dismissed for failure to state a claim, the circuit court’s judgment denying him prospective in forma pauperis status was proper; (2) the portion of the judgment imposing pre-service review and summary dismissal on any future complaints Appellant might file in the Wise County Circuit Court must be vacated and remanded for the circuit court’s consideration of the four-factor test established in Adkins v. CP/IPERS Arlington Hotel LLC, 293 Va. 446, 452-53 (2017); and (3) the part of the judgment holding that the complaint was speculative and failed to establish irreparable harm and the lack of an adequate remedy at law must be vacated and remanded for entry of an order of nonsuit. View "Gordon v. Kiser" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus asking the court to compel the City of Virginia Beach to limit the scope of the redaction the City provided in response to Appellant’s request for documents under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), holding that the circuit court’s application of the attorney-client and work-production exceptions was excessively broad. Appellant made a request under VFOIA asking for records of all legal fees an expert invoices relating to all of the City’s expenses in litigating against him in federal court. After the City provided extensively redacted records Appellant filed his petition for writ of mandamus. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that the attorney-client exception and the work-product exception justified the City’s redactions. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a further in camera review and for disclosure of unreacted billing records, holding that the circuit court allowed the City to withhold some entries from disclosure when those records plainly did not fall within the VFOIA exceptions for work-product and attorney-client privilege. View "Bergano v. City of Virginia Beach" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure